Opera Preview: Marriage of Figaro
By Montague Gammon III
Mozart’s Mad Take on a Wedding Day.
The Mozart opera that runs just four performances at the Harrison Opera House really shouldn’t be called The Marriage of Figaro, stage director Lillian Groag points out.
“Figaro’s Wedding Day” would be a better translation of Le nozze di Figaro.
The full name of the work includes a subtitle: ossia la folle giornata.
That rarely noticed phrase is close to crucial. It means, “namely, a mad day.”
“A mad day” is a truly accurate description of the plot, if not a very thorough synopsis of its wild – “mad” – whirl of masquerades, practical jokes, jabs at vengeance, attempted seductions and marital conflicts.
It’s full of broad comedy – Groag counts eight times the title character gets hit - in what see calls a “very concrete production,” filled with pratfalls and such. It’s “very funny,” she says, but she also points out that this show about folly and madness has something wise and sane to say.
“Comedy that has a serious nature is not in our culture,” she says.
That serious stuff springs from two facts about Figaro’s boss – or in 18th Century society, master – Count Almaviva.
First fact is that the Count wants to seduce Figaro’s fiancee.
Second fact is that he is married to a woman who loves him quite dearly but who knows plenty about his infidelities, or his attempts at same.
“The Countess is really suffering” because of her husband’s philandering, says Groag.
Throw into the mix a woman who lent Figaro money and who wants to claim him as her husband since he apparently cannot make good on the debt any other way, a young and lustful page who has what we might politely call a crush on the Countess – quite unrequited – and set it to Mozart – “the most glorious music ever,” in the view of Groag and lots of others over the past 227 years.
What you get is a “mad” romp – though not the sort of romp that would have dishonored any of the ladies – through disguises and unmaskings both literal and figurative that ends in forgivness.
At the end, amidst revelry and laughter, The Marriage of Figaro holds out the hope that “people can change,” Groag says, and that “Forgiveness is possible,” and that “we must learn to forgive.”
The Marriage of Figaro, or, a mad day
April 6, 10, 12 & 14
Composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte.
Virginia Opera Association
Harrison Opera House
160 E. Virginia Beach Blvd.